Random Ramblings

The Personal Blog of Lori Hogan

Back to Reality in Full Force - Part 1

Sooo… somewhere between last week and now I miraculously returned hme and resumed life, which is a little crazy as I scramble to prepare for an IEEE meeting I’m not actually attending. Why, oh why do I choose to do things? Why couldn’t I spend Friday night drinking or bowling like a normal mid-twenties-year-old ?

Let me fill you in on the rest of our trip. Our second-to-last full day in Sydney we went to Taronga Zoo. I’m a big zoo fan, and this was a good zoo to be sure. The easiest way to get there is to take a ferry from Circular Quay - that brings you to the “back door” of the Zoo. To get to the “front door” you take a gondola over the entire zoo. Quite the view.

A highlight of the zoo was the Seal show… they have several trained seals who “perform” while the narrator explains quite a deal aabout the seals and their training. Another highlight was the dingo… however, it was not eating any babies while we were there.

After the zoo we hit the Hard Rock Cafe again in an attempt to get a shot glass… no joy with the shotglass :( but some with the giant sundae we shared. :) Then we headed back to the hostel to finish off our wine and pre-pack some stuff.

Our original plan for our last day in Sydney was to head to the Blue Mountains, but we really wanted to just hang out in Sydney and thus, that’s what we did. We went back to Paddy’s Market to pick up some souvenirs and then we took the subway to Sydney Olympic Park, home of the 2000 Summer Olympics. A beautiful spot, with nice walking trails, public art, large open spaces and tons of pregnant women and children. The reason for the women and children was a Pregnancy and Children Expo being held out there (and surprisingly, not because of the Korn concert that was held the night before). But we spent several hours walking around, checking out the different sport facilities and attractions. One of the most popular attraction we saw was McDonald’s… it was packed! And, well, we were hungry. :S And that was basically it for our last full day in Sydney.

The next day, our travel day, started quite early as we had previously booked a 6am shuttle to the airport, with the transportation branch of the Russian Mafia. We first encountered these fine folks when we were trying to catch another shuttle after arriving from Cairns. We were assured that the one we were looking for and the unmarked shuttle van they weretrying to get us to buy tickets for were ultimately the same thing. Okay, whatever, the price was the same and they were there NOW, so we bought return tickets to save a few bucks when returning home in a few days. I was told to call 24 hrs in advance to book the return trip.

The first hint that the companies weren’t the same was when I tried calling the numbers on my return ticket. There were three - two printed on the ticket and one the seller hastily wrote when he passed the tickets. When I first called the written number, there was no answer… no problem, I tried the first printed number… no answer. Okay, it’s early. Maybe they aren’t in yet, even though a lot of people do head to the airport in the morning. I tried the third number, and got a “This number has been disconnected” message. Oh dear. Had we been duped?

Nope. Called back the written number a few hours later and got a man with a heavy Russian accent. I book us in for 6am on Saturday. Fast forward to then… and no shuttle. Another shuttle stopped to see if we wanted to come with them, and when I showed him our ticket he kind of laughed a little. Oh dear.

At 6:15am, our shuttle arrived - on the other side of the street, and the driver jumped out telling us to “Hurry up! Hurry Up!”. Never mind the fact there is traffic coming, we’re expected to run across the road, luggage and all. The shuttle driver throws our bags in the back (I rescue my carry-on and its breakable glass from his clutches), we hop in, and away we go to pick up a few more fares. This guy’s driving style is kind of kamakazi… if the next lane is going faster and there’s almost the space for the van, he squeezes in. U-turns are a given, backing up is done without much forethought or without looking. And in the front seat is his 6-month-old puppy, Igor, along for the ride and being a bit of a distraction (which is not what this driver needs!).

But, thank God, we arrive at the airport at about 7am, alive and with all pieces intact. We waited in line a bit for it to open… our flight wasn’t until 10am, but we wanted to get exit row seats.. and luckily (there were maybe 20 people in line in front of us, but I suspect most of them were from the same tour group) we did! And I picked up a Swatch at the duty free store!

This is getting LOOONG, I’m breaking it into a two-parter… see later for more@